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week 3 discussion strategy sun tzu and the choice of battles

Do you believe that Sun Tsu would have agreed or disagreed with the ‘choose your battles’ metaphor for strategy?  Explain your answer based on the How to Win Every Battle video in lecture.

Battle Choice, Sun Tzu and the Art of War

For the purposes of this course, the metaphor of battle choice augments but is not intended to replace existing strategy theory, e.g., Michael Porter’s five forces model, Jay Barney’s Resource-based view (both models which you will learn in this course.)

Instead, the metaphor and proposed ADR framework provide a FILLER TEXT, but optional reading for this course) is the first known treatise written on strategy and strategic thinking. It contains 13 chapters that focus on various points of military strategies and tactics. According to Sun Tzu, most important was the positioning of an army, and while doing so one should take into account the physical environment and subjective beliefs of one’s opponents on the battle field. 

This short, but famous book on strategy never explicitly uses the term “choose your battles”, yet virtually the entire treatise is providing exactly that advice. The Art of War was about positioning and leveraging “weak versus strong”.  Sun Tzu wrote about when and where to fight, the root meaning of “strategy”. The Art of War is about literally which physical ground to choose (geography being everything) to allocate resources (armies) to wage battle, and which not.  By this reasoning, “strategy” (the man-made construct) at its very core is about resource allocation to battles chosen (Weeks 2 and 4) for a particular human motivation (Week 2), meaning either external market stakes (Week 3), or internal relative competitive strength (Week 4), and/or both (Weeks 2, 6, 7 and 8). 

Watch this short video on the Art of War carefully, and notice the logic found in the parsimonious view of FILLER TEXT’. Consider the metaphor a “lens” when watching this video and see if you don’t find some new understanding of “strategy” in this common, even trite expression as it explains much.  

Sun Tzu- The Art of War Explained



Did you see it?  Did you notice that when Sun Tzu advises, “Avoid what is strong and strike what is weak”, he was speaking literally of FILLER TEXT the rival, and where not – in short, Sun Tzu’s treatise focused on the prioritization of battles as the key skill of the general.  Essentially, this grapples with the question, which battles should be provided greater resources (and therefore ‘attack’), which battles should receive the same level of resources (therefore defend), and battles merit fewer resources (therefore ‘retreat’), or possibly zero resource commitment (avoid). 

Consider when Sun Tzu says, “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting”.  He is referring to the choosing the battle that works to the enemy’s greatest disadvantage and to your general’s greatest advantage (e.g. fighting on a specific downhill slope with the sun at your back and in the enemy’s eyes as they fight uphill). 


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